Meet a New Yorker for Parks

In Memoriam: Evelyn Lauder

November 18, 2011

One constant throughout Evelyn Lauder’s life was her love for New York City’s parks, playgrounds and flowers.

From the time she moved to the Upper West Side in the 1940s until her death last November, she was never far from the city’s open spaces, especially Central Park. As the mother of two young children in the late 1960s, she displayed the vision and passion that would become hallmarks of her life.

“She had the dream of creating children’s playgrounds that weren’t just safe, but also something different,” said longtime friend Ann Buttenwieser.

That vision, along with the partnership of Buttenwieser and other mothers in the area, led the Lauder Foundation’s charge for better play areas for children, and spurred the city’s development of three Adventure Playgrounds in Central Park, which are still community favorites. Constructed between 1967 and 1973, the playgrounds replaced dated facilities with creative play areas designed to encourage children to use their imaginations.

“I can rightfully say that we met over a park,” Buttenwieser said. “And we were friends ever since.”

Later in life, Lauder served on the board of the Parks Council, which became New Yorkers for Parks in 2002, as well as the Central Park Conservancy. And she was rarely seen around town without her IS-30 Olympus camera – often for photographing flowers in city parks and gardens. She also tended her own flower garden on her apartment terrace, which Buttenwieser called “quite possibly the most magnificent terrace in the city.”

Her legacy lives on for the countless children who enjoy the Adventure Playgrounds and Imagination Playground, a modern incarnation of those parks near South Street Seaport.

“There was never a bad mood, always a smile” Buttenwieser said. “She always had a way of pushing people to do their best – but in a most elegant way.”

Dorothea Poggi: Ferry Point Park West, Bronx
Phyllis Yampolsky: McCarren Park Pool, Brooklyn
Debra Meyers: Claremont Park & Mount Eden Malls, Bronx
Phil Hawkins: Brower Park, Brooklyn
In Memoriam: Greg Jackson: Brownsville Recreation Center, Brooklyn
Kamillah Hanks: Tappen Park, Staten Island
Pat Courtney: Isham Park, Manhattan
Rocco Bescia: Kaiser Park, Brooklyn
Lorita Watson: Williamsbridge Oval
Christine Murray: McCarren Park Dog Run
Kathleen Vorwick: Pouch Camp & Staten Island Greenbelt, Staten Island
Len Maniace: Jackson Heights Beautification Group, Queens
Martha Lopez-Gilpin: Astoria Park, Queens
Lucy Aponte: Soundview Park, Bronx
Lynn Rogers: Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries, Staten Island
Beverly McDermott: Kissena Park, Queens
In Memoriam: Evelyn Lauder: Citywide